Expedition cruising for would-be explorers

Adventure cruising - antarctica

For those interested in nature and wildlife, who prefer small ship cruising and pursuits such as hiking and kayaking, expedition and adventure cruising fits the bill.

Expedition cruises are ideal for those who have cruised before but are looking for something different, or for first-timers hankering for a taste of adventure. You can sail to the wildest of far-flung places such as the Arctic and the rare wilderness of Antarctica – surely the ultimate adventure destination. The Galapagos too, the cluster of islands where animals have no instinctive fear of humans, is on many a wish list. “Expedition cruises are perfect for reaching off-the-beaten-track destinations,” said Simone Clark, managing director Iglu Cruise, adding, “The Amazon, Arctic, Antarctica, Galapagos and the Sea of Cortez are all popular.”

These voyages are very different from traditional cruises with their multiple dining experiences and Broadway-type shows. Expedition cruising is all about exploration; you might travel ashore by inflatable Zodiac, while evening entertainment could be a talk from a guest lecturer or destination specialist, perhaps on the destination’s flora and fauna or geology.  Andy Harmer, director, Clia UK & Ireland, said: “There are cruise options out there that appeal to all, including the growing breed of intrepid travellers. Cruise lines offer a great choice of immersive-style excursions such as hiking in Alaska or seeing wildlife up close on a Zodiac tour.”

Silversea’s Silver Cloud will soon be part of the line’s luxury expedition fleet. Destined mainly for polar waters, the ship will be converted into an ice-class ship during extensive refurbishment in 2017. Spacious suites – 80%  have verandas – and five dining options mean that whale watching or following the antics of cavorting penguins has never been so comfortable.

Russian shipAkvile Marozaite, Silversea regional sales manager expeditions, UK & Ireland, said: “Expedition cruising has opened up destinations that are only accessible by sea, attracting both new and seasoned cruisers looking for an authentic travel experience. We are delighted to introduce Silver Cloud to our expedition fleet in response to increased demand for expedition voyages.”

The 260-guest ship will also sail on itineraries to non-polar regions augmented by a fleet of 18 Zodiac crafts for up-close explorations. On the ship’s 10-day expedition to Ushuaia departing December 1, 2017, guests will traverse the Drake Passage – a must for any explorer. Guests should have binoculars and cameras ready, as sailing closer to the Antarctic Peninsula means the chance of seeing seals basking on ice floes, orca whales and macaroni penguins with their extraordinary, flamboyant head feathers.

The latest collaboration between expedition cruise operator One Ocean Expeditions and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society provides a polar education programme presented by wildlife, history and conservation experts. The team already turns classics such as their 10-night Antarctic Peninsula Adventure into expedition voyages of discovery.

But it is the focus on education that makes all the difference, as Andrew Prossin, managing director, One Ocean Expeditions, explained. “The Frozen South is the ultimate open-air classroom where, in the right hands, everything from whale biology to glaciology literally come to life. Discovering this remote corner of the world in the company of experts is quite an experience. This partnership enables us to offer the kind of trip that changes people’s lives.”

The successful completion of Crystal Serenity’s Northwest Passage voyage this summer, along with the volume of guests seeking luxury adventure travel, not to mention extensive research over the past three years revealing that close to 70% of current Crystal guests have a strong interest in expedition cruising, have prompted Crystal to rebrand its current Crystal Yacht Cruises as Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises.

The new banner will encompass three new purpose-built polar-class expedition mega yachts which will navigate ‘first year ice’ and be outfitted with submarines, helicopters and remote-operated vehicles, as well as spacious penthouses and villas. Crystal’s expedition ships will cruise in the Arctic.

They will then follow the route of migrating whales along the coast of the Americas and Europe to Antarctica during winter. Crystal is scheduled to take delivery of Crystal Endeavor in mid 2019, with the additional two expedition vessels debuting the following years.

Crystal’s recently launched experiences have already broadened the company’s reach. With Crystal Esprit’s voyages and extreme water toys – including the cruise industry’s first-ever submarine – appealing to intrepid and adventurous travellers, the 62-guest capacity yacht has attracted nearly 50% ‘new to Crystal’ guests in its first year of deployment.

“This is really what might be called the golden age of expedition cruising, with new destinations and a host of purpose-built expeditionary ships coming on line,” said Katharine Bonnor, Tauck’s senior vice-president river and small ship cruising. “The idea that you have to ‘rough it’ when cruising to the world’s wild places is now completely outdated, opening up expedition cruising to a wider audience of potential first-timers.”

No ‘roughing it’ is necessary on the new all-suite,  all-inclusive Island Sky either; it’s the only ship in Antarctica where the all-inclusive voyage price includes flights from Santiago or Buenos Aires.

“The Island Sky is a small polar adventure ship that will be a game-changer in the fly-cruise market,” said Andrew White, president of Quark Expeditions.

“Our passengers rank comfort and value high on their list of adventure priorities. Premium cruise amenities and flight accessibility now allow us to offer the same depth of Antarctic exploration as on our more classic voyages.

“Island Sky is a superior cruise option – along with classic adventure ship Sea Adventurer – to experience Antarctica in a shorter period of time than traditionally required.”

Celebrity Cruises will have two ships, Xperience and Xploration, sailing the Galapagos from March 2017, allowing guests to get up close not only with the wildlife but also with those who reside in the islands’ communities.

Meanwhile Hurtigruten is offering 32 new destinations for its 2018 explorer programme on the world’s first hybrid expedition vessel, Roald Amundsen. The Norwegian company highlights the importance of balancing growth in adventure tourism with environmental concerns.

Chief executive Daniel Skjeldam commented: “All operators must commit to the highest environmental standards to relieve strains on nature and wildlife in these pristine areas. Hurtigruten offers responsible adventures based on more than 120 years’ experience.”

“Expedition cruising is a relatively new avenue for us but we’re already seeing a popularity surge,” said Nicola Defty, CruiseDeals.co.uk.

“What has long been considered a holiday option catering exclusively for older generations is appealing to younger audiences. Expedition cruising has a huge part to play in that.”

SALES TIPS

1 – Understand the needs of your clients. Those who live an active lifestyle, who are keen to learn and who enjoy enriching experiences, wildlife and the outdoors, may be ideal for this kind of cruise experience.

2 – Find out from your clients exactly what they are looking for on an expedition/adventure cruise. Perhaps they want to see icebergs or photograph penguins. Maybe they don’t know that they probably have to reach shore by Zodiac. Perhaps they just want to sit in a jacuzzi and watch ice floes through the windows. Discover their aspirations to sell them their perfect voyage.

3 – Make sure your customers understand what is included in the expedition cruise fare. If they think it is too expensive, explain exactly what is included in their trip and also point out that smaller ships tend to have higher prices because they hold fewer guests.

4 – Expedition cruises are destination-led, so make sure you know enough about the destination for your sales pitch.

5 – It’s not all rugged and basic in the world of expedition cruises. Explain the onboard luxuries available on certain ships to those clients unsure that expedition/adventure cruises would suit them.

BOOK IT

SILVERSEA offers a seven-day Baltra, Galapagos, to San Cristobal voyage on Silver Galapagos departing June 17, 2017. Ports of call include Isla Daphne Grande, Bahia Darwin, El Barranco, Seymour Norte and San Cristobal. Price from £5,350pp in the Explorer Suite. The all-inclusive package includes flights between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, transfers, pre and post hotel (for guests with flights after 10pm) and National Park fees.  0844 251 0837

TAUCK offers a six-night Galapagos cruise on Isabela II plus two nights’ accommodation in Guayaquil, Ecuador, departing August 14, 2017. The flexible itinerary allows the ship to access remote islands en route. Price from £4,160pp.
0800 810 8020

AURORA EXPEDITIONS offers a 14-day ‘Across the Arctic Circle’ cruise on Polar Pioneer departing Aberdeen on June 23, 2017. Calls include the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Bear Island and Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen. Price from £3,250pp, including full board on ship, shore excursions, lectures, tour in Longyearby en. 020 72281230

INTREPID TRAVEL offers a 12-day Antarctic Explorer voyage on the Ocean Endeavour expedition ship, departing Tierra Del Fuego on February 23, 2017. The route travels through the Beagle Channel and the Drake Passage to the South Shetland Islands. Price from £5,240pp, excluding international flights. 0808 274 5111

Related Articles